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A comparison of categorical beliefs about foods in children and young adults

Oakes, M.E., Sullivan, K., Slotterback, C.S.
Food quality and preference 2007 v.18 no.5 pp. 713-719
food beliefs, food choices, child nutrition, school children, young adults, energy content, weight gain, nutrition knowledge, obesity, stereotyped behavior, health claims, lipid content
Previous research has shown that foods often have reputations for weight gain that are not reflected in their calorie content. Categorical (good versus bad) beliefs concerning the weight-gain potential of foods have been shown in adults of all ages but have yet to be examined in children. In the present study, judgments of the weight-gain potential of common “healthy” and “unhealthy” foods were assessed in a group of children (mean age 11.1) and compared with those of college students (mean age 18.6). Results indicated that the children have assimilated categorical beliefs concerning ordinary foods and that fat content is the only nutrient characteristic that predicted weight-gain ratings. However, the children have not acquired these categorical beliefs to the degree of the college students that were examined. Specifically, the children (compared to the college students) showed a strong tendency to consider foods with more healthy reputations as greater weight-gain promoters. Perhaps children, whose beliefs about foods are still being shaped, may be more receptive to compensatory instruction by health care professionals concerning the weight-gain potential of foods.